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January 22, 2009 posted by Delores M. Walters First impressions 1. Seeing the panoramic aerial view via TV satellite of the crowd of millions taken from a vantage I wouldn’t have seen if I were there. 2. Watching the man who would be our next president walk through the corridor to the ceremonial. As he walked, a self-contained smile on his face, his composure maintained as always – his stillness was almost Buddha-like. 3. After such absorption on my part, the man emerged from the shadows to an uproar in the room. What impressed me though was that when the room erupted, I realized that the women responsible for the uproar did not look at all like Barack … or me for that matter. The space at Caroline’s was not really very diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, class or even age. Despite that fact, this audience of mostly White and younger, middle aged women represented for me the millions of voters who were the reason for Barack’s victory – and ours! 4. Art, Music & Solemnity: Aretha’s soul-stirring singing of America touched me because it represented countless Blacks who now felt that this was their song too – as Americans for the first time. Another miracle.
Inspirations I was inspired by the intelligent interweaving of history into the ceremony as lessons from the past, as tributes to our ancestors occurred throughout. Such lessons were provided without the listeners necessarily being aware that they had become recipients of our collective historical memories: artistic expressions in music, poetry and artful speechmaking were teaching strategies. For example, instead of singing (or worse being asked to sing) Lift Every Voice and Sing till earth and Heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies, how much more effective it was to hear the words spoken so eloquently by Rev. Lowrie, a civil rights hero. Written by James Weldon Johnson in about 1900, the song was not only the inspiration for Augusta Savage’s The Harp, sculpted over a generation ago but it could inspire many listeners out on the mall, on city streets and around TV sets even though they might not have known that the words came from what is known as The Negro National Anthem. Outlooks I have felt so often that America was not interested in or capable of voting for an intelligent president, not to mention a Black one. With Barack we also obtain something even more unimaginable -- a president who is smart not only in the bookish sense, but also in common sense -- a common man who is far above being common. I agree with my colleagues that President Obama should remain true to himself and his values. My hope is that he will also be able to continue to hear the various sides of the particularly contentious battles that are ragging in the Middle East, Africa and here at home. In my view, we are people around the world interconnected by at the very least our interest in transforming unjust situations for the sake of the advancement of our young. That is what the inauguration and the Obama administration symbolizes. --Delores M. Walters is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives and Member Center Liaison Click here to read part 1 of Post-Inauguration Reflections